The season has begun ... let's take a look at the Section that has come out on top in Albany each of the past two years in Division 2.
There's no question that there will be a lot of podium presence from Section 3 again.
Kelan McKenna of New Hartford has placed at the state tournament the past few years, including a fifth place showing at 106 in 2015. With one year remaining in his career, look for him to earn All-State status yet again. (He's currently nationally-ranked at 113 pounds).
He may not be the only "McKenna" on the podium as Ian McKenna is also a threat for New Hartford after winning the Section at 113 pounds a year ago. Those two grapplers were joined by Liverpool's Audey Ashkar as representatives of Section 3 in Albany. All three of those mentioned won their brackets at the Andersen Memorial over the weekend.
"Kelan is a state title threat at 113," said Fulton coach Jeff Waldron. "Ian McKenna and Ashkar are always in every match."
Who else could make a run in the lightweights? Matt Griffin of Jamesville-Dewitt/CBA, a returning state qualifier, could be back at the lightest class again.
Griffin was second at the state qualifier, as were Tyler Kellison of CBA/Jamesville-Dewitt and Tucker Amato of Indian River. In addition, both Lucas King of New Hartford and Wyatt Willis of Fulton had solid seasons at 99, while Baldwinsville's Jake Naples took third in Section 3. All three were at 120 pounds at the Andersen tournament, with King second and Willis beating Naples for fifth.
"Lucas King and Wyatt Willis went into overtime last year for third," Waldron said. "King is very talented - it kind of runs in the family. Wyatt is a very solid kid. I think he's a section finalist contender."
Also look out for Sean Nadeau of Liverpool, who was third at the Andersen in that same bracket. According to Waldron, "Nadeau did a lot of work in the summer and could very well pop up in the Section finals. He's a really hard worker."
Like Nadeau, Cole Wade of West Genesse was fourth at the Sectionals - at 106.
Holden, courtesy cnywrestling.com
All of the Section champions between 126 and 160 pounds graduated, opening the door for a whole new group of wrestlers to make their marks.
One such competitor is Watertown's Daesean Williams, who was edged 1-0 in the Section 3 title bout by Round of 8 grappler Blake Engebretsen (graduated). In fact, Williams, went 33-6 a year ago with five of those losses to state qualifiers. Meanwhile, his teammate Zach Hunt also piled up victories last season.
Fulton's Tim Holden beat multiple state medalists, including fourth placer Joey Bush, and will be someone to watch, along with teammate Collin Flynn. Both won Andersen titles.
"It was an amazing offseason for Holden, who is one of our captains," Waldron said. "He's up early every morning, runs to school and is in the weight room before school starts. He never misses a day. Collin was having a great year and then tore his meniscus and didn't wrestle up to his potential at Sectionals. Tim has been a Section finalist, Collin has the ability to be too."
Among the others on our radar are Baldwinsville's Jeremy Pond (Andersen champ at 132) and Sam Candee, both bronze finishers (and their teammate David Rush who split matches with Flynn already this year), as well as Jonah Cavallo of Jamesville-Dewitt/CBA and Stephen Demong of Oswego (who was topped by Rome Free Academy's Brendan Kilpatrick at the Andersen tournament).
"The Baldwinsville guys are really tough," Waldron said. "Pond did work over the summer."
Waldron also mentioned Fulton's Joe Cocozza, who had a solid season and "is only a freshman and is very competitive with Holden and Flynn. He had a big pin against Adirondack - he has potential to get those big wins." In addition, AJ Yablonski didn't compete at the end of the year but could be a factor.
Phoenix Webb of Central Square and Thor Sutphen of Baldwinsville were mentioned as wrestlers who could certainly make an impact after battling for fifth at 160 last year, a weight that returns only one other placer.
Sonny McPherson of Indian River will be in the mix for a state title after earning fourth at the NYS championships a year ago. McPherson won four times in Albany, including over a pair of placers.
"McPherson has been [to the state tournament] a number of times and is a contender," Waldron said.
The grappler McPherson defeated in the Section finals, Travis Race of Fulton, is certainly a podium threat at the state level as well. He won his opening bout at the Times Union Center by fall.
"Travis will be back at 170 and if he doesn't place at the states, I will be very surprised," Waldron said. "He's right there with Tim Holden every day working out before school. He went to all kinds of camps and clinics and even when he played football in the fall, he didn't stop wrestling. He was in the practice room after football."
Also getting his hand raised at the NYS tournament was Liverpool's David Carnie at heavyweight. In fact, he won twice and lost in the placement round in overtime. He will be formidable at the state level, despite an early setback to Fulton's Jared Crucitti.
Meanwhile, wrestlers like Isaac Havens (Central Square), Alex Bowen (Baldwinsville) and Caleb Null (Carthage), all silver medalists in Section 3 last year, will be tough. (Null was the champ at the Clyde Cole Invitational).
"I saw Bowen at the Fulton Spring duals and he looked really good," Waldron said. "He's tough and a hard worker."
We're also keeping tabs on wrestlers like Max Emond of Central Square, Kyle Kuty of New Hartford and Noah Gates of Fulton. And we haven't forgotten about Aaron Yablonski, who, according to Waldron, was ranked at the top of the Section last year but didn't wrestle in the postseason.
"I expect to see really good things from him," Waldron said. "He's been in the weight room a lot and will be in the mix for sure."
Fulton outscored second place Liverpool by nearly 20 points to take the team tournament title a year ago in Section 3. The Red Raiders bring back Section 3 finalists Tim Holden and Travis Race (a multi-time state qualifier) as well as a host of placers. Wyatt Willis, Adam DeMauro, Collin Flynn, Noah Gates and Jared Crucitti all nabbed fourth a year ago, while Nick Noel and Jacob Bailey also made the top six and Sam Jones could be a sleeper. Needless to say, Fulton has the potential to put up a lot of points at the Section 3 championships again and will be tough to beat.
"We have 11 seniors this year," Waldron said. "It's always nice to have that type of experience. There will be a bunch of tough teams, like Liverpool and Baldwinsville."
Liverpool graduated a handful of Section medalists but return NYS qualifers Audey Ashkar and David Carnie as well as Sean Nadeau and Jalen Barron.
"Liverpool had a tough path at the Section Duals last year, but they were in the mix to win it," Waldron said. "They're very well coached - one of those teams that's good at every weight."
Meanwhile, Baldwinsville could see a host of wrestlers in the lineup who made the podium at the state qualifier, including top three finishers Alex Bowen, Jake Naples, Jeremy Pond and Sam Candee. Kevin Lewis, Tyler Patrick, David Rush and Thor Sutphen also placed [as did Josh Peck, but he hasn't competed yet]. Look for a run from the Bees.
New Hartford has multi-time All-Stater Kelan McKenna in the mix, along with fellow state representative Ian McKenna and Lucas King, Kyle Kuty and Thomas Zegarelli. Indian River and Jamesville-Dewitt/CBA are among the others to watch out for this season.
Note: The following wrestlers also made All-Section last year:
Travis Harrington (Cicero-North Syracuse), Andy Nicholson (Central Square), Stefan Colbert (Indian River), Hunter Duger (Auburn), Ethan Palmer (CBA/Jamesville-Dewitt), Christopher St. Denny (Cicero-North Syracuse), Tony Campbell (Carthage), Shane Smith (CBA/Jamesville-Dewitt), Austin Duger (Auburn), Dylan Wallace (Central Square), Nick Lavin (Watertown), Shayne Middleton (West Genesse), Nahjir Dean (Syracuse Institute of Technology), Julian Bernard (Auburn), Mason Hausler (East Syracuse Minoa).
Spann, Photo by BV
There was a whole lot of Section 3 representation on the medal stand in Albany last year. That started with the lighter classes, where Theo Powers of Mexico earned his first state championship with a pin in the finals over Alexander's Dane Heberlein.
The Brown recruit got this season off to a good start with a title at the Matthew Marino Invitational in a class that included two other NYS placers at 120 pounds. Adirondack's Brandon Gaylord and Phoenix's Zack Carlson could be returning Section medalists in the mix there.
Powers was joined in the title round by Adirondack's Derek Spann, a three-time NYS finalist who nabbed second in 2015. He moved up in weight each of the past few years and is likely to be at 126 this time around.
Who might some of the challengers be?
How about 2015 Section placers Zach Burke of Morrisville-Eaton, Hunter Howland of Mexico, Ben Hood of Marcellus, General Brown's Connor Schissler or Riley Gerber of Camden?
"There are a lot of good wrestlers in the lightweights," Phoenix coach Gene Mills said. "Everyone mentioned is very tough. Burke is a quality kid who went to the state tournament. It looked like Howland had [two-time state finalist] Dane Heberlein pinned this weekend at the Matthew Marino tournament. He threw him to his back twice. He's tough. Ryan Dolbear [of Phoenix] was a place winner two years ago. Joey Brillo of Skaneateles is also someone to watch out for."
The All-State wrestlers didn't stop with Powers and Spann. In fact, Central Valley Academy's CJ Walz, South Jefferson's Trey Laflamme and Mexico's Austin O'Reilly all made the podium as well in 2015 - at the same weight (106).
It looks like O'Reilly and Laflamme may resume their battles, with Walz higher in weight along with Cody Fields of General Brown, another returning qualifier who will be in the fray again.
Fields took the mat in the state capital at 99 pounds a year ago. Central Valley Academy's Jon Charles was third at that weight in the Section last season and will be back.
"Charles is very tough at 99 and so are a bunch of guys. Kevin Spann is one of the other tough lightweights for Adirondack," Mills said.
In addition, Waldron said a pair of seventh graders, Mason and Marek Bush of Central Valley, impressed him at the 1000 Islands Duals over the summer.
Speaking of impressive, Phoenix's Cahal Donovan majored returning qualifier Cody Anders of Brockport at 106 pounds to win the Matthew Marino Invitational.
"He looked like a man on a mission," Mills said. "He always had the ability - he's fun to watch."
His teammate Christian Kee may also be around that weight after taking second at the Sectionals a year ago.
"Christian Kee is very talented and always wrestling," Waldron said. "He never stops moving. I'd look out for him."
Additional Section placers returning are Parker Talbot of VVS, Beau Burke of Morrisville-Eaton and Will Kahlil of Cazenovia (who hasn't competed yet).
Photo by BV
Holland Patent is the only Division 2 team to return a pair of 2015 NYS champions.
Alex Herringshaw is already a two-time state titlewinner. The Army West Point-bound competitor is on the hunt for #3, likely at 160 pounds.
"Herringshaw is the top guy wherever he goes," Mills said.
Herringshaw's teammate Hunter Richard had a stellar sophomore campaign that ended with a state title at 138. The nationally-ranked wrestler will go for two in a row, likely at 145 pounds, to add to his third place finish as a freshman.
"Hunter Richard is obviously number one at his weight," Mills said. "He's proven he can get it done at the state tournament."
Both Tanner Cook of Central Valley and Brad Dietz of Phoenix also took the mat representing Section 3 in Albany and both have an All-State showing to their credit. They could battle it out at 138. Who else could potentially make a statement?
Perhaps returning All-Section wrestlers like Noah Handy of Dolgeville, state qualifier Connor Steria of Lowville, Dan Alberico of Camden or Holden Pelton of South Jefferson?
In addition, Mills said he'll be interested to see how freshman Ross McFarland of Phoenix fares after a solid regular season in 2014-15. (He missed the postseason).
Speaking of Phoenix, Eathan Harrington took third at the Matthew Marino Invitational, beating Sammy DePrez of Hilton in the process, while teammate Seth Gilbert also placed at 152.
152 was the weight at which Caleb Beach of South Jefferson qualified for the state tournament last season.
Moving back down a few classes, Adirondack's Ryan O'Rourke has made plenty of appearances at the state tournament and earned All-State honors again last year, at 126 pounds. He'll be looking for another medal, likely at 132, where he could be joined by Holland Patent's TJ Philpotts, a returning state qualifier.
Who else will be in the fray in the middleweights? How about returning All-Section wrestlers like Isaiah Roes of Lowville, Dempsey Carroll of Copenhagen, Josh Farrar of Morrisville-Eaton, Austin Benoit of Holland Patent, Collin Treen of Central Valley and Doug Simmons of Canastota? Keep an eye out for Hunter Owen of Sherburne-Earlville, who missed a chunk of last season.
Buell, Courtesy cnywrestling.com
Joe Hennessey of Adirondack won a pair of matches by shutout in the wrestle backs at the state tournament and then dropped an overtime contest in the blood round. Look for him to get onto the medal stand this time around.
Meanwhile, Trevor Snow of General Brown earned All-American honors at Fargo this summer in Greco and is someone primed for a breakout campaign. His teammate Kyle O'Connor nabbed bronze at 160 in the Section a year ago.
Someone mentioned a number of times as a wrestler ready to make an impact is Chittenango's Connor Fredericks. He beat the very talented Jordan Torbitt of Whitney Point, a former state placer and NHSCA National champ, over the weekend.
"Fredericks is very good - wow, he's a natural," Mills said.
Moving up the weights, Logan Nichols of South Jefferson, is someone Mills said should be tracked. He defeated eventual state champ Jacob Woolson last season (they split matches).
"Nichols is dangerous," Mills said. "He can pin anyone. He was only a freshman, so he's only gonna get better. He was scary last year - you didn't know if you were gonna beat him or get pinned."
Very much in the state title picture is Sherburne-Earlville's Jack Buell, a Black Knights recruit like Herringshaw, who placed third at the Times Union Center last season.
Buell edged General Brown's Ricardo Dawkins for the top spot in Section 3 at 195 pounds and Dawkins bounced back with a fifth place showing in Albany. Both have what it takes to finish high on the state podium again, with Dawkins likely to move up in weight. Some more tough wrestlers in that range include Joe Benedict of Sandy Creek, Brett Finch of Camden and Chittenango's Antonio Cutrie.
Owen Albanese of Canastota and Andrew Tanner of Adirondack both placed in the Section at heavyweight in 2015 (and both have been NHSCA All-Americans), while Anthony Moffo of Morrisville-Eaton is the highest returning medalist at 220. Jacob Olmstead of South Lewis also placed last year.
Powers, Photo by BV
"I think it will be a closer team race than in the past," Mills said. "I can't say who would win right now. There are teams with really top kids and other teams with big supporting casts."
Mexico won both the Section 3 and New York State Division 2 tournament championships last year. (The Tigers also were the Section dual winners). With the return of state gold medalist Theo Powers, placer Austin O'Reilly and Section runner up Hunter Howland as well as 25+ match winner Tylor Allard and others like Dean Shambo and Jason Bond, the squad will no doubt be tough again. However, there are some serious challengers.
Adirondack offers significant firepower, with All-Staters Derek Spann and Ryan O'Rourke, qualifier Joe Hennessey and All-Section grapplers Brandon Gaylord and Andrew Tanner. Sean Banks, Kevin Spann and Harry Roberts also won 35 or more bouts in 2014-15. The Wildcats will be strong both in dual and tournament formats.
Phoenix offers 2015 Section 3 placers in Christian Kee, Brad Dietz, Zack Carlson, Cahal Donovan and Seth Gilbert, while other strong contributors like Ryan Dolbear, Ross McFarland, Austin Wirth, Eathan Harrington and Tim Gandino will make the Firebirds a threat to go far.
Holland Patent certainly has superstars. Expect both Alex Herringshaw and Hunter Richard to compile points again, while TJ Philpotts could make a run and Austin Benoit, Nick Herringshaw and Nick Lemanque are also wrestlers to watch.
Meanwhile, look out for General Brown with Cody Fields and Ricardo Dawkins leading the way and wrestlers like Fargo All-American Trevor Snow, Connor Schissler, Kyle O'Connor and Jake Joanette taking steps forward.
Canastota is typically tough and don't sleep on Central Valley. According to cnywrestling.com's John Drew, Central Valley brings back a lot of talent in addition to having some quality wrestlers come over from the Herkimer program.
"Central Valley is tough," Mills added. "They have a bunch of kids who will place in the Section."
Section 3 finished on top in Division 2 at the NYS championships again in 2015. Look for more success in Albany again.
"I think anyone who goes from Section 3 will do well at the state tournament," Mills said. "I think it's a good chance our Section wins three years in a row."
Thank you to all the contributors to this article. Special thanks to John Drew, Jeff Waldron and Gene Mills.